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The State of Young America: Health Care and Coverage

Part three of a five-part series

In the third chapter of SOYA, we see that long-term economic trends, such as diminished wages and disappearing jobs, combined with rising health care costs, make our generation of young adults the most uninsured age group in the country. But in spite of these bleak trends, changes to the insurance system brought by health care reform have begun to improve coverage rates for 18-34 year olds nationwide, with one million more young adults covered already, and more progress expected in the years ahead.

For now, persistent uninsurance and the resulting negative health outcomes are not a choice for many young adults, but a harsh economic reality.  In fact, only 4.6% of young adults we polled said they choose not to have health insurance, and the rest remain uninsured because they don’t have access to affordable care.  Indeed, health care costs have the serious potential of wiping out young people’s often meager savings, and forcing many of us to turn to credit cards to pay our medical debts. Here are some more stats taken from the report and poll:

  • Over one-third (36%) of young adults are worried about being able to afford health care for their family.
  • 82% of young people believe protecting health care services and access for low-income people should be a priority of Congress.
  • Credit card debt is 79% higher for young adults with medical debt than those without.
  • The proportion of full-time workers aged 18-24 with insurance through their job dropped by 12.8% in 10 years alone.
  • In 2009, just 47.3% of 18-24 year olds had employer-sponsored insurance.

Despite recent years of rising costs and uninsurance rates, changes to the system brought by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) promise improvements in health care access and security, and will likely help many more young people gain coverage in the next few years as its provisions take effect.




Here are some points of hope that we already see:

  • The number of uninsured young adults 18 to 24 continues to fall – by a total of one million in the last quarter of 2010 and the first two quarters of 2011.
  • The share of young adults 18-25 without coverage dropped from 28% in the third quarter of 2010 to 24.2% in the second quarter of 2011.

To read the full report, click here. Stay tuned for Monday’s post on how high costs for everday needs are impacting young people’s future.